With the win at Assen, Marc Marquez brought his tally for the season up to eight, and a clean sweep of the races so far. After the race, many fans remarked on Marquez' remarkable pit swap strategy, jumping straight from one bike to the other without touching the ground, rather than hopping off one and onto the second bike, as the other riders on the grid do. It looks spectacular in photos, such as this one tweeted by Marquez himself, though if you watch the video from MotoGP's Youtube channel, it's clearly more of a hop than a leap.
Did Marquez get any benefit from it? The best way to answer that is to measure it, and fortunately, the MotoGP.com website offers us two ways to do that. The results section of the website holds a PDF with an analysis of every lap done by each rider, broken down into sector times. By taking the times posted by each rider for the last sector of the lap on which they entered the pits, and the first sector of the lap on which they exited the pits, we get a clear idea of how much time riders lost in swapping bikes. In addition, the video of the race on the MotoGP.com website (MotoGP.com subscription required) shows on screen the times riders actually spent in the pits, from crossing the pit lane entrance line to the pit lane exit line. Using these two numbers, we can get a fair idea of who comes out best after making their pit stops.
Of course, the numbers need to be regarded with caution. Unfortunately, the director did not show a complete list of times for all riders, stopping when the second wave of pit stops took place, and just as Pol Espargaro and Karel Abraham nearly collided. However, they did show the times of most of the top riders, and especially those riders who were fastest in total. The sector times also need to be understood in context. The complete time from the timing loop for the start of the final sector (just after the Meeuwenmeer corner) to the end of the first sector (at the start of the Veenslang, on the back straight) is affected by more than just the time spent in the pits. Traffic coming out of the pits, especially, can have a big influence, especially as the pit lane exit leaves the riders on the inside of the track between the first two corners, the Haarbocht and Madijk. Despite the complexities, looking at the times is instructive nonetheless.
It is Andrea Iannone who emerges as the bike swap champion, fastest to enter pit lane and then emerge again by two tenths of a second. Stefan Bradl is second quickest, four tenths quicker than the two Repsol Hondas of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. Andrea Dovizioso, who entered pit lane with Marquez and followed him out, was three tenths slower than Marquez, and nine tenths slower than Iannone. Valentino Rossi was sixth quickest, taking one second longer to enter and exit pit lane than Iannone.
Those times show that there is not much being gained or lost in pit lane. Andrea Iannone may have been 0.6 seconds quicker in pit lane, he ended the race 29 seconds behind the Repsol Honda man. A more complete picture emerges from the combined sector 4 and sector 1 times. The sector 4 times on the way into the pits are all pretty close: the entire field is within a couple of seconds of each other. A couple of hundredths separate Marquez and Dovizioso, with the slower riders behind them a half a second or so slower than the leaders.
The first sector times, measured as the riders exit the pits and start the next lap, are more instructive. It is here where Marquez gains the most. The Spaniard pulls four tenths of a second on Andrea Dovizioso in that first sector, and much more of the others. Marquez is nine tenths faster than Pedrosa, 1.8 seconds quicker than Aleix Espargaro, and nearly three seconds faster than Valentino Rossi. Those kind of differences add up fast.
The difference is not just being luck with traffic when exiting pit lane, either. Checking the splits for the second sector show that Marquez was pushing hard on his first lap out of the pits, despite the conditions. Only Andrea Dovizioso was faster than Marquez, and he was chasing the Spaniard at the time. Marquez was four tenths faster than Pedrosa and Aleix Espargaro in the second sector after his pit stop, and over a second quicker than Rossi.
What does that teach us? It shows that Marquez is willing to push hard from the moment he hits the track. He is exploring the limits of traction as soon as he exits pit lane, and is pushing as hard as possible to try to pull a gap. Just how hard he is pushing is clear in the third sector times, as Marquez ran off the track at De Bult and lost four seconds to Dovizioso. Marquez is more willing to take risk, his extraordinary talent allowing him to understand grip levels available and get away with those risks. This part of his riding style and attitude is where he is gaining on his rivals, rather than any shenanigans in pit lane. The race is very much being won out on the track.
|No||Rider||Bike||Race pos||Dorna pit time||Diff|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Forward Yamaha||4||25.2||1.5|
Dorna pit time = the time displayed on screen on the MotoGP.com video feed, comprising the time taken from the start of the pit lane speed limit to the end of the pit lane speed limit at pit lane exit. Not all rider times were displayed.
|No||Rider||Bike||Race pos||Pit lap||T4+T1 Time||Diff|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Forward Yamaha||4||6||86.471||2.840|
T4+T1 times = combined times of the last sector (from Meeuwenmeer to the line) and the first sector (from the line to the Veenslang) for the lap in which the riders entered and exited the pits.